Passenger Tried to Leave Military Base After Flight from China; CDC Issues Quarantines

CDC then issues quarantines for all 195 passengers
January 31, 2020 Updated: February 6, 2020

Riverside County Health officials have issued a quarantine order for a passenger who had traveled from coronavirus-impacted Wuhan, China, to March Air Reserve Base (MARB) on Wednesday.

On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said that all 195 passengers were placed under quarantine. “The quarantine will last 14 days from when the plane left Wuhan, China. This action is a precautionary and preventive step to maximize the containment of the virus in the interest of the health of the American public,” it said in a statement.

The passenger apparently tried to leave the military base, according to Riverside County health officials.

“Riverside County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser issued the order requiring the person to stay for the entire incubation period or until otherwise cleared,” said the county in a statement. “This action was taken as a result of the unknown risk to the public should someone leave MARB early without undergoing a full health evaluation.”

The person, who was not identified by Riverside health officials, will have to remain at the base until their health status is cleared.

“All other passengers from the flight also remain at MARB and continue to be evaluated,” according to the statement.

The U.S. State Department evacuated about 200 nationals in Wuhan, which is under lockdown, as fears of the virus outbreak continue to escalate. The agency said it is planning to evacuate more people next week.

None of the passengers on the State Department-commissioned flight showed coronavirus symptoms after being evacuated. But according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they agreed to stay at the base voluntarily.

“These people are not under federal quarantine orders. I’ve personally talked to them when they were disembarking and after they went through their first screening checks. They were happy to be here. They were very much cooperative with the questions,” Dr. Christopher Braden, a CDC official, said at a press conference on Wednesday. “When I talked to them about their willingness to stay to be fully evaluated over three days or so, all those that I talked to were very willing to do that,” he added.

But Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.), in a statement, requested an investigation into the coordination, planning, and funding of the flight.

“For two days, the Department of State and the Department of Health and Human Services left Inland Empire residents alarmed about the risks posed by potential coronavirus patients being flown into a public space at the heart of our community, and confused by the utter lack of a coherent plan to keep anyone safe,” Torres wrote in a statement. “ONT was up to this task immediately, but that does not excuse the dismal lack of communication by the federal government.”

The CDC on Thursday confirmed there were six cases of the virus in the United States after the spouse of an infected person who had recently traveled to Wuhan contracted the disease. It was the first case of person-to-person transmission in the United States.

Four other cases have been confirmed, including one in Los Angeles, one in California’s Orange County, one in Arizona, and one in Washington state. Those patients all had recently traveled to Wuhan.

Outside of China, around 100 cases of the virus have been confirmed in around 20 countries and territories.

Delta Airlines and American Airlines on Friday announced that they will suspend all flights to China, and not just Wuhan, over virus fears. It came after the World Health Organization declared it a public health emergency and the State Department urged all Americans not to travel to China.